Maintaining a safe workplace
Routine maintenance is essential to any workplace if it is to operate in safely and effectively.
Maintenance can also be a potential workplace safety issue if not undertaken. Poor standards of maintenance are a major underlying cause of accidents in the workplace, including accidents that occur during maintenance work itself and cleaning. All these accidents can be very costly, both in financial terms as well as in pain and suffering.
Most accidents resulting from poor maintenance involve equipment, but maintenance of the fabric of the building is also involved. Good maintenance by competent staff ensures that equipment performs well and reliably, and helps prevent accidents.
Health and Safety in the storage and warehousing industry
Work related accidents within the storage and warehousing industry remain a major issue, with many thousands of incidents recorded each year.
If you're a small business, and are thinking about doing a risk assessment for a warehouse, please visit the following page: example risk assessment for a warehouse.
Electrical safety at work
Electricity kills and injures people. Around 1000 electrical accidents at work are reported to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) each year and about 25 people die of their injuries.
Many deaths and injuries arise from:
- use of poorly maintained electrical equipment
- work near overhead power lines
- contact with underground power cables during excavation work
- mains electricity supplies (230 volt)
- use of unsuitable electrical equipment in explosive areas such as car paint spraying booths
Under the 'Electricity at Work Regulations 1989' there is a requirement relating to the maintenance of electrical equipment. Regulation 4(2) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 states "as may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable such danger." Systems include portable appliances and fixed installations. Protecting yourself, your staff and your business can be simple by taking care and using common sense. Faults or damage can often be found by just looking (visual inspection); this is the most important maintenance precaution.
If you are in any doubt whatsoever regarding the checking of the electrical system do not proceed. Seek expert advice with regard to the mains wiring, the Institute of Electrical Engineers guidance note three: Inspection & Testing, (5th Revised edition), give recommendations that the electrics in premises such as offices and shops are tested every five years. It is important that a competent electrician or firm of electrical contractors carry out this testing. For more information on electrical safety download the Electrical safety and you document.
Gas safety at work
Employers and the self-employed have a duty to ensure that gas installations, appliances, pipe work and flues are maintained in a safe condition.
Health and Safety law relating to gas
Health and safety law relating to gas aims to ensure the safe installation, maintenance and use of gas in domestic and business premises. HSE and local authorities have joint enforcement responsibilities under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 to aim to prevent injury to consumers and the public from either carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning or fire and explosion. The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 place responsibilities on a wide range of people.
Gas Safe Register
Gas Safe Register is the official gas registration body for Great Britain. Gas Safe Register replaced CORGI as the gas registration body on 1st April 2009. The CORGI gas registration scheme ended March, 31 2009 and is no longer recognised by law as the gas safety register. Important - check and see if your gas engineer is now a Gas Safe registered engineer. You should also ask to see your engineer's Gas Safe Register ID card.
Legionnaires Disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia which can affect anybody, but which principally affects those who are susceptible because of age, illness, immunosuppression, smoking etc. It is caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila and related bacteria that can be found naturally in environmental water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs, usually in low numbers. As they are commonly found in environmental sources they may also be found in purpose built water systems such as cooling towers, evaporative condensers and whirlpool spas.
If conditions are favourable the bacterium may grow creating conditions in which the risk from legionnaires' disease is increased. It is therefore important to control the risks by introducing measures outlined in the Approved Code of Practice & guidance document (ACoP)
What measures are there to control legionella?
To prevent exposure to the legionella bacteria, you as a dutyholder must comply with legislation that requires you to manage, maintain and treat water systems in your premises properly. This will include, but not be limited to, appropriate water treatment and cleaning regimes.
Remember, legionella can grow in any workplace if the conditions are right - you do not have to work with microbiological agents, e.g. in a laboratory, for exposure to occur. If you are responsible for any of the water systems described in HSE's Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) and Guidance "Legionnaires' disease: The control of legionella bacteria in water systems" (L8) you will need to assess the risk of employees and others in the workplace contracting Legionnaires' disease.
Separate regulations (The Notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992) require the notification of cooling towers to your Local Authority. For more information on Legionella download the Legionnaires disease document.
Asbestos was extensively used as a building material in the UK from the 1950's through to the mid-1980's. It was used for a variety of purposes and was ideal for fireproofing and insulation. Any building built before 2000 (houses, factories, offices, schools, hospitals etc) can contain asbestos. Asbestos materials in good condition are safe unless asbestos fibres become airborne, which happens when materials are damaged.
Why is asbestos dangerous?
Asbestos fibres are present in the environment in Great Britain so people are exposed to very low levels of fibres. However, a key factor in the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease is the total number of fibres breathed in. Working on or near damaged asbestos-containing materials or breathing in high levels of asbestos fibres, which may be many hundreds of times that of environmental levels could increase your chances of getting an asbestos-related disease.
When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases which are responsible for around 4000 deaths a year. There are four main diseases caused by asbestos: mesothelioma (which is always fatal), lung cancer (almost always fatal), asbestosis (not always fatal, but it can be very debilitating) and diffuse pleural thickening (not fatal).
Remember, these diseases will not affect you immediately but later on in life, so there is a need for you to protect yourself now to prevent you contracting an asbestos-related disease in the future. It is also important to remember that people who smoke and are also exposed to asbestos fibres are at a much greater risk of developing lung cancer.
The duty to manage asbestos
The duty to manage is directed at those who manage non-domestic premises: the people with responsibility for protecting others who work in such premises, or use them in other ways, from the risks to ill health that exposure to asbestos causes.
What is the duty?
- take reasonable steps to find out if there are materials containing asbestos in non-domestic premises, and if so, its amount, where it is and what condition it is in
- presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not
- make, and keep up-to-date, a record of the location and condition of the asbestos containing materials - or materials which are presumed to contain asbestos
- assess the risk of anyone being exposed to fibres from the materials identified
- prepare a plan that sets out in detail how the risks from these materials will be managed
- take the necessary steps to put the plan into action
- periodically review and monitor the plan and the arrangements to act on it so that the plan remains relevant and up-to-date
- and provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them
There is also a requirement on anyone to co-operate as far as is necessary to allow the duty holder to comply with the above requirements. For more information on Asbestos download the Managing asbestos in buildings document or visit the HSE website on asbestos essentials.
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